People took to the streets recently in Iran and other countries to protest an expansive, long-term deal that Iran has signed with China. Outside the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver on April 3, protesters held signs reading “Iran not for sale, China get out” and “Take your hands away from Iran.”
On March 27, the foreign ministers of Iran and China signed a 25-year Strategic Comprehensive Partnership Agreement that covers political, economic, and security between the two countries and bring $400 billion of Chinese investment into Iran, state-run CGTV reported.
Though the terms and details of the agreement have not been made public, a leaked draft circulated last July revealed China would invest in Iran’s 5G network, nuclear energy, ports, and railroads. In return, the communist state would receive a steady supply of Iranian oil and gas at a discounted price for 25 years.
At the Vancouver protest on April 3, organizer Kei Esmaeilpour, an immigrant from Iran who came to Canada in 2002, said the agreement does not have any legitimacy.
“Based on the Iranian constitution, every major contract agreement or convention should be present[ed] to the Iranian parliament, and after approval of the Parliament, it proceed[s],” Esmaeilpour told the Epoch Times. “This agreement hasn’t been through any of these steps.”
He claims that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei bypassed the government, resulting in no members of parliament knowing anything about the deal.
Iran International reported that many Iranians, including some politicians, have protested the secrecy surrounding the pact and questioned why parliamentarians’ views were not sought before it was signed.
Activist Bahman Roudgar told The Epoch Times the reason is because “the reigning government is like a servant to the Chinese government.”
“The Iranian government, which is now very weak, they are ready to give all kinds of concessions only to remain in power,” said Roudgar, director of a legal service firm in Toronto.
“When the Chinese government says ‘Do not reveal the details of this agreement,’ all they say is ‘Yes, sir.’”
In February 2020, Chinese ambassador to Iran Chang Hua said in a press conference China was the only country that continues to buy oil from Iran, despite sanctions imposed by the Trump administration that penalize buyers of Iranian oil.
On March 25, two days before the signing of the deal with China, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced the coming inauguration of the Goureh-Jask crude oil pipeline, which will stretch from the southwestern province of Bushehr to Jask Port in southeast Iran. Construction of the 1,000-kilometre pipeline system, which will export Iranian oil from the Persian Gulf to the Sea of Oman, began in late June 2020.
The pipeline fits into the framework of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive investment strategy that will extend the communist state’s political and economic reach across Asia, Europe, Africa and South America. It will also allow the Chinese regime to develop Jask Port, a major port near the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, where most of the world’s oil exports pass. The BRI has been criticized by the U.S. and other countries as a “debt trap” diplomacy that will saddle developing countries with unsustainable debt burdens.
The agreement also gives China a foothold in the Persian Gulf that undermines U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran, while allowing Beijing to gain greater political influence over Iran.
“If China has control of the southern part of Iran and Persian Gulf, we are confident that they are going to use those areas as … a military fortress, so that they can station their soldiers in southern Iran, around the Persian Gulf,” Roudgar said.
“If tomorrow they want to have any aggression, any attack, or if there is a war in the future, the Persian Gulf will become a base, a military base for Chinese soldiers and submarines, everything. This is a very hideous, fearful image that we don’t want to happen in our region.”
Another reason Iranians think the government has put “the whole country for sale,” according to Roudgar, is the “renting” of islands to China.
“They rented the islands in the Persian Gulf, and also the ports,” he said. “These ports are really important, and they are renting them long-term to China.”
Esmaeilpour said countries such as Zimbabwe, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka that entered deals with China as the investing country ended up with nothing. “They have just more debt,” he said.
A petition in Persian to “Stop Selling Iran to China” on change.org had received 103,000 signatures as of April 8, with a goal to reach 150,000 signatures.
With reporting from Nicole Hao, Venus Upadhayaya, and Reuters